Monday, December 21, 2009

What Wise Men Do

Christmas is a fun time of year. You get to dust off old Christmas decorations, buy red candles for your coffee table (first married Christmas), take some time off work, and buy gifts for those you love/like/know/dislike. But my favorite part of Christmas is.....dusting off the Bible characters that get neglected the rest of the year! Obviously, the Christian community (and American society, to some degree) more specifically recognizes the so-called "Christmas Story" during this time of year. It is without further adieu that I bring my voice to the table with the characters that have occupied much of my thinking this year, ah yes, the Magi ("wise men", to the layperson).

I give a hat tip to my professor, Dr. Varner, and you should read his very much more informative posts on the Magi here and here. He notes that the Magi were a special sect of religious men in the Persian society. They were not "kings" as the familiar song states, nor were there necessarily 3 of them (the Biblical text gives no number).  It is also very likely that they did not journey to Judea ignorantly. In Daniel 2:48, Daniel himself, a Jew in captivity in the east, was referred to as the leader of the "wise men." Therefore, it is likely that the wise men of Matthew's gospel had access to his Messianic prophecies and had expected the birth of the Jewish Messiah (Daniel 9:24-27). It is probable that they traveled several hundred miles and arrived up to 2 years after Jesus' birth. (Note that Matthew 2:11 tells us that they entered the "house" and saw the "child"- not "infant".) Lastly, the Bible text notes that they followed "his star," which was very likely God's Shekinah glory leading them to Jesus, the Messiah. If it were a real star (aster in Greek is a general word that could refer to any celestial appearance), it does not make sense why it would disappear, then reappear directly over the house where Jesus resided.

What strikes me most about this story is the two searches for the Messiah. The wise men have been searching for the Messiah, and when they see the toddler Jesus, they worship him. They give him gifts. They sacrificially bow down to Jesus as King. These Gentile worshippers, in some sense, fulfill the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12- "In you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Yet along the way to the King of Kings, they stop and ask King Herod for directions. King Herod thus embarks on his own search for the Messiah. His reaction upon hearing of the Messiah's birth was not the humble, worshipful, and sacrificial reaction of the wise men. Herod, because he saw Jesus as a threat to his reign, his kingdom, his agenda, and his plans, tries to kill Jesus. Here we see the first of several murder attempts on Jesus' life. Jesus came to die. This was his explicit purpose from before the foundations of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20). But it would happen at his timing, not at the timing of the arrogant and selfish Herod the Great.

When I read the juxtapositions of these reactions, I cannot help of thinking of our own individual reactions to Jesus the King. Though most our culture assumes there are several inconsequential reactions to Jesus, there are really only two reactions, both of which are eternally consequential. One reaction stiff arms Jesus, viewing him as a hindrance to our selfish plans and desires for our lives. He claims to be King of all, but we do not allow him to be king of our own kingdoms. If we won't accept him as King, he will not be accepted as forgiving Savior alone. This reaction leads to futile living, and, ultimately, it leads to judgment. But the other reaction is quite different. The wise men sacrifice their time, money, and convenience. The wise men freely give their gifts. The wise men rejoice exceedingly at the presence of their Savior. The wise men worship the King. What will our reaction be?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Those I honor, in the eye of the Tiger

Obviously, the partially shocking news regarding Tiger Woods' hidden life is now world-wide headline news. And millions upon millions have given their opinion, mocked him or defended him regarding his actions, his injuries sustained in his "car accident", and his "apology." And I don't wish to comment much more on his situation, but these events did trigger something in my mind...

As someone who teaches regularly, I am always looking for comparisons, analogies, and examples, both positive and negative. And selfishly, I wish that some examples came out sooner so that I could have used them in a past lesson! A few weeks, I taught my high schoolers Psalm 15. It is a Psalm that describes the character of people who are close with God, those who "dwell on his holy hill."

In verse 4, David states of those who are close with God, "in their eyes a vile person is despised, but the honor those who fear the Lord." When news like Tiger's story breaks, which unfortunately happens all too frequently, it gives me an opportunity to analyze whom I honor, and to whom I grant my admiration. Sure Tiger can hit a golf ball far (and straight!) and Kobe can do things on the basketball court unimaginable to my stiff white self, but my admiration of such athletes and other celebrities must stop there. According to the verse, "a vile person" must in some sense be "despised" by followers of Jesus. We must rather, "honor those who fear the Lord."

So I honor those people. I honor my wife, who spends her days off school & work doing laundry, decorating, and cleaning (her favorite) just because "I want to give you a nice place to live." I honor my parents, who unselfishly raised 4 kids to learn God's word, live for Jesus, and love one another. I honor my pastor and family who, for some insane reason, allowed dozens of high schoolers to take over their home on a regular basis in hopes of building relationships and impacting their lives. It worked. I honor my RD, who sacrificed any notion of a comfortable life (or private dating life!), chose to move back into an all-male college dorm in his late twenties to help guide confused and seldom responsible men to honor Christ even in their young age. I honor Russ & Ann, a married couple at my church who seemingly have dozens if not hundreds of younger couples pass through their doors (and eat their food) in seek of counsel and love each month. These and more are the people I revere in my heart. They maybe can't mash tape-measure home runs, or hit fall-away jumpers in the NBA (though my dad can put the Space Shuttle in space, and that's kinda cool). They probably won't help push a product via endorsement. But they have skills in the arena that counts for eternity.

Obviously, many will critique & bash what Tiger and others like him have done, and deservedly so. My encouragement to us is that we also take time to "honor those who fear the Lord." These are the people whose posters I want hanging up in my garage. (That is, when I have a garage.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

How can you be humble and still "Love yourself"?

"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." -- Jesus, Matthew 22:39

Yesterday I taught on humility from Philippians 2:1-11. I was convicted by Paul's repeated urges to consider others more important than ourselves and to look out for others' interests above our own. I was then reminded of a devotional I heard a few weeks ago, that, sadly, I have heard several times. The main thrust of this devotional was that we must learn to "love ourselves" in order to be effective in this world. The above verse from Matthew was cited. "How can we love our neighbors as ourselves, if we don't first work on loving ourselves?"

Obviously our culture has much to say about self-esteem, self-confidence, self-trust, self-worth, self-love, self-self-self-self. But it seems to be that Jesus here is assuming that we already love ourselves. Our hearts are self-inclined naturally. We always seek good for ourselves, since we think that we do not deserve pain, suffering or wrong. Consider in the verse above that Jesus does not command us, "You shall love yourself." Rather, the explicit command is, "You shall love your neighbor." It seems that in our arrogance we love ourselves so much we want to see it commanded by Jesus, so we force it into the text! (

Which answers my question, "How can you be humble and love yourself?" No, humility can self-love cannot co-exist. Self-love is the root of sin. Eve saw that the fruit was good for her. Cain was angry because he felt that he deserved better regard. And on it goes. Sin comes from self-love, and holiness comes from God-love. 

I do not claim to be an expert in the social sciences (or an expert in anything, for that matter!) Any thoughts on self-esteem, self-love, self-worth?

"Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Evangelism...On purpose!

These are the notes to a message I recently gave. God recently convicted me about my lackadaisical approach toward being a light. I, as are many men my age, am a committed sports fan. The month of October is a time of great joy, or great idolatry for a sports guy. Baseball playoffs take place, the NBA and NHL seasons start, and college, pro, and fantasy football are all in full swing! As I was on my way home from Game 2 of the Angels vs. Red Sox series, unbelievably excited after an intense Angels' victory, God brought Colossians 4:2-6 to my mind. Why isn't our evangelism as passionate as our hobbies- sports, TV shows, etc.? Why do we not plan for it the way we do other priorities in life? Hopefully the few points from Colossians 4:2-6 below help...

1. Pray Consistently- Paul says, "Continue steadfastly in prayer..." We must ask God to save & forgive those around us, since he is the one who has the power to do it. I do not ask my mother to fix my leaky head gasket; while she may offer heartfelt sympathy, fresh coffee, and warm cookies, she does not have the power to fix the head gasket. I ask Dad, since he has the power and ability to repair cars. We pray and ask God, because he has the power. We pray for open doors, we pray for the right words to say, and we pray for salvation.
2. Plan wisely- Paul says, "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time." As I moved out from under my parents roof to a massive apartment with my new wife, I studied and research and planned everything. I read up on health insurance plans, researched every apartment complex in the area, read consumer reviews to make sure I got a decent car, found the best way to budget & save my money, read up on every possible credit card available to me, etc., etc., etc. Why do we plan for "important" things in life- investments, healthcare, retirement, vacations, but do not "plan" for when and how we will talk about Jesus to those around us who need Him?! Too many times, I sit with family & friends who need Jesus and simply wait for an opportunity. That attitude is far too passive. Sometimes a door will be opened, but other times we must kick it down.
3. Speak Graciously- Paul says, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt..." If God's grace was water, our words must be a hose; we deliver grace. We speak grace when we tell of what Jesus has done; we speak grace when we meet human needs of comfort, correction, and encouragement. But we cannot simply speak the right content. I believe Paul wants us to be compelling in how we discuss and share the grace of God. He says our speech is to be "seasoned with salt." We must be tasty in a distinctive and compelling way. Think of how Jesus reasoned with unbelievers- "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?" Make your evangelism provocative, piercing, and compelling.
4. Live Contagiously- After "seasoned with salt", Paul says the result of this kind of lifestyle- "that you may know how you ought to answer  each person." If we are answering them, they must be asking. Do you live in such a way that those around you ask? Why do you have hope in you? Why do you devote time to God's word, to the church, to prayer? Where does your comfort come from? Though the gospel is still "foolishness" to the world, people will be drawn as we live the lives that God designed for us.

Go get 'em! On purpose.

Monday, October 19, 2009

To Hell or not to Hell?

After nearly puking up my last few years of meals upon listening to Brian McLaren talk about "hell", I started to wonder, what exactly is hell like? We all have an image in our minds (or at least I do) of perpetual burning and flames, etc. But what does the Bible say? My list is in no way exhaustive, so feel free to add in the comments below. There are some verses/passages that I recall, but couldn't find.

First off, let me say that hell indeed does exist as a place of punishment. Jesus spoke about it over. and over. and over. Furthermore, there would be no urgency to accept the forgiveness of Jesus unless there was also a consequence for not doing so.

"Fiery Furnace."- In Matthew 13, Jesus twice refers to hell as a "fiery furnace." Once, he says that the "weeds" ("sons of the evil one") will be thrown into this furnace, just as real weeds are. Then he says that the angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw the evil into a "fiery furnace." I'm not sure how literally this image should be taken, but I am sure that it speaks of real punishment, and that it is not pleasant.
"Lake of Fire." At the end of Revelation, the "beast", the "false prophet", the devil, "Death and Hades", and anyone not written in the book of life are all thrown into the Lake of Fire.
"Flame"- In the parable of Luke 16, the rich man in the "place of torment" says that he is "in anguish in this flame," referring to hell.
"Gehenna"- When the New Testament says "hell", it is normally this Greek word, gehenna. Traditionally, this is the valley outside of Jerusalem where much of the waste and refuse- possibly including dead bodies- were thrown.
"Outer Darkness/Weeping and gnashing of teeth."- Three times in Matthew, Jesus describes hell through parables and says that the evil will be cast into the "outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth." Once again, this image differs from the ones above, but it is 1) for the evil and 2) not pleasant.

Will hell be a place of flames? The biblical images in my very non-exhaustive list are definitely "fiery." What may be unclear in the imagery is clear in Paul's explanation- "They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed..." (2 Thess. 1:9-10). And, what the Psalmist says is true for all men- "For me it is good to be near God!" (Psalm 73:28) What is clear is that hell is eternal separation from God and punishment by God, and to be near God in relationship with Him is our greatest good! It is not my focus to scare or to be a downer, but to motivate my own all-too-often-jaded-heart.

Friday, October 9, 2009

King Context! Finding the Familiar when You Least Expect It

There have been a few times in my life when, while running around town for one thing or another, I run into my mom, relative, or a good friend that I hang out with alot. And it is a pleasant surprise. I have a conversation with someone close to me, when it was unplanned, in a place and at a time when I didn't expect it.

At times, I also find the same pleasant surprises when conversing with God's Word. There are so many Bible verses that I, as someone raised 'in the church', knocking out my AWANA memory verses like Torii Hunter's HR last night, don't value or understand as I should, because I am "so familiar" with them. Because I have memorized a verse apart from it's original context, it's meaning becomes clouded to me, and the impact it should have is minimized. We must take Greg Koukl's advice to "never read a Bible verse." When you 'find the familiar' verses, passages, and stories in context, we can benefit more specific, impacting meaning. Let me give a few examples of what I mean.

Philippians 4:13- "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Most of us have heard this verse a jillion times, or at least seen it on Tim Tebow's eye black. Many of you are so familiar with this verse, I probably didn't even need to write it! Yet as I was reading through the whole book of Philippians a while back, I came across this verse unexpectedly, and I noticed the meaning of this verse in context. Paul writes, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content...I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need..." When he says he can do "all things" with Christ's strength, he is specifically speaking of our ability, with Jesus' strength, to be content. 

Lamentations 3:22-23- "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." A great hymn, many cute house decorations, and even a coffee mug, have been made with this verse as inspiration. But as I read through Lamentations, and did not expect to find this verse, its meaning hit me in a more powerful way as I read the context. Jeremiah, explaining his grief at the capture of Jerusalem, tells us that he "has forgotten what happiness is...has become the laughingstock of all the man who has seen affliction under the rod of God's wrath." Furthermore, he says that God "has shut out my a bear lying in wait for me...drove into my kidneys the arrows of his quiver." No doubt, the grief he felt was incredibly deep, incredibly painful, and left him on the brink of hopelessness. Yet he says that God's mercies are "new every morning." The black context brings out the bright, shining beauty and complexities of this well known verse.

There are many more examples of this in my life. I come across a great verse or passage that I am too familiar  with, and it's true meaning hits me in a new way, because it came at a moment and in a context where I didn't expect it. This is the benefit, brothers and sisters, of reading God's word for yourself. Devotionals are great, blogs (even this one!) have some use, and sermons can be awesome soul-food. But the side-effect is that we hear snippets of individual verses outside of their context, and thus deprived of their full meaning and power. Therefore, let us not deprive ourselves of feasting on God's Word for ourselves. You, even you, the AWANA All-Star, the Bible major, the leader of a friggin Bible Study may be surprised at the impact you may find! (I speak to myself).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Principles for dealing with "Bible Contradictions"

Below are just a few of the principles I keep in mind when people bring up alleged contradictions in the Bible. It may be one of the most common excuses people use against the Bible. If you have not encountered this argument yet, you certainly will soon (that is, if you are Jesus-like and evangelistic and actually talk to and befriend non-Christians!). The below are NOT ways to solve every contradiction; rather, these are just a few things that I keep in mind. If you have any other notes of interest, please feel free to comment!

1. Contradictions should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. There is not one simple cut and dry answer that will refute any "contradiction." Every tough issue in the Bible may be affected by several other topics: ancient manuscripts, linguistics, translations, historical context, cultural context, etc.

2. There is always a good answer- IF you study and think about it! I have been faced with some very tough issues in the Bible, both in my Bible classes and "out on the street." I have always been able to read, think, and study, and find a very sufficient answer or explanation. Ask pastors or teachers, ask Bible professors, read some books or good websites, or actually read the Bible in its context!

3. Alleged 'Contradictions' actually give more reason to believe the authenticity of the Bible. Imagine that you are answering an essay question for an exam at school. If your essay was exactly the same, thought for thought, as your friends, the teacher can reasonably assume that you cheated, copied off each other, or at least studied the exact same notes together. However, if you both give good, solid answers that  give the same "jist" of facts and ideas, but you write with different words, phrases, order, and structure, you teacher can assume that you both are reporting the same true answer of the same true fact in a different way. She (or he!) would have no reason to assume foul play.

Likewise, when people bring up 'contradictions in the Bible,' often times it is a merely that one gospel author recorded the events in a different order, or a slightly different way, or with a few extra tidbits either included or left out. These variations in the stories give us great reason to believe that the authors of the New Testament were simply recording the facts of history that they witnessed and were impacted by!

4. Contradiction or different point of view? As I mentioned above, alleged contradictions are often just different points of view of the same event. Kind of like one person describing your face from the left side, while another describes from the right side.

5. It's OK to say, "I don't know." Sometimes, I have seen my professors or teachers faced with very tough questions, and they say, "I don't know, but I will find out for you." I have answered the same way at times. If you honestly don't know the answer to a tough Bible question, the best thing to do is to (drum roll please...) say that you don't know! But use that opportunity to go and learn about the issue.

6. How does this issue affect the story of the gospel? Many times, you can sense that people are bringing up alleged contradictions and questions, but they do not really want answers or real, unbiased discussion. So, I think it may be wise to ask, "Even if this issue is a contradiction, how does that affect the historical event of Jesus' resurrection?" Get to the point. I don't want to spend our time debating about very minor issues if someone is only using those issues to dodge the real question, "Who do you say that Jesus is?"

Friday, September 25, 2009

Preaching and Monkey Bars

This one may insult your intelligence. Or compel you to insult mine.

Why do we focus so highly on preaching in our churches? Pastors spend hours a week preparing and studying and praying, and our churches spend nearly half of their Sunday mornings listening to God's Word being (I hope) accurately taught.

It is clear that preaching is a primary focus of the church. I won't document it here, but from Acts 2:42-47 to the Pastoral Epistles, it is clear that churches should preach God's word, and Christians should listen and feast on God's truth. My first thought is, "Isn't it strange that God set things up this way for his church? Sitting and listening on a Sunday?" A second thought is, "What is the purpose and effect of regular preaching for our churches?"

Paul said to Timothy, "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16). Now it is clear from the context that much of Timothy's congregation ("hearers") were believers. Certainly, some weren't, but many were. Yet Paul's encouragement is that Timothy persist in his teaching so that he "will save" himself and those who listen! While I won't get into the "Can I lose my salvation issue here" (You can research that for yourself here), it is notable that Timothy is encouraged to preach so that all his hearers (and himself) would be saved!

We need God's grace everyday- without it, we would each certainly "make a shipwreck of our faith" and turn away from Christ. It is only the beauty of his grace that keeps us. And a hose that he sprays his grace out of is faithful, inspiring, passionate preaching of His word.

This thought literally enters my mind at least weekly. I envision my life as a trek through a long line of monkey bars (you don't need me to tell you how these work do you?) I grab daily onto God's grace, cling for dear life, and swing to the next promise, truth, revelation, conviction that God uses to hold me up day in and day out. Preaching is God placing a 'monkey bar' in front of us on a regular basis. We need grace, we need truth to sustain, we are losing momentum and ready to fail, and we need truth to hold onto. So God, through pastors like Timothy (and your pastor!), presents truth to you on a regular basis to sustain you and keep you held up by his grace.

As Jeremiah wrote, "His mercies (aka 'monkey bars') are new every morning."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Link- Theology and Holy Living

Just a few verses that connect knowedge of God & correct doctrine (aka 'theology') with practical living. These are motivation for me to know my Bible better...

1 Timothy 1:9-11- "The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

POINT- Sinful living is contrary to correct doctrine/theology.

1 Timothy 6:2-3- "Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness..."

POINT- Correct doctrine/theology accords with godliness.

Ephesians 4:13-16- "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

POINT- "Knowledge of the Son of God" is equated with "mature manhood." Maturity ("no longer be children") is equated with doctrinal/theological stability (not carried about by "every wind of doctrine"). We are to grow to Christlikeness in every way. All this knowledge and maturity, theological/doctrinal AND practical, results in practical fruit- the body "builds itself up in love."

Titus 2:9-10- "Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior."

POINT- A well-behaved worker/slave is "decorating/adorning" themselves with doctrine/theology.

Hebrews 6:1- "Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity..."

POINT- The author views theological development as "maturity" in one's life.

2 Timothy 3:16-17- "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."

POINT- Scripture (correct knowledge of Scripture is called 'theology/doctrine'!) is profitable for equipping you with "every good work."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Believing Correct Theology & Doctrine- Don't Injure your Heart!

For those of you who don't know, I went to a conservative Christian college (The Master's College) and majored in Biblical Studies. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, especially the community I developed in the dorms. Undoubtedly, discussions would arise on many topics- funny movie quotes, sports arguments (most of which were better than your local sports talk radio!), or stupid prank ideas (we once gave a false fire evacuation of our dorm at 2am. During the crazy Socal wildfires that were within miles. Not a good idea.). But theological discussions were a unique part of my college experience, and a part that has carried on into my "real adult" life.

Now, many issues are "gray areas" and are definitely to be handled with grace. But ultimately, the Bible must be our authority. What God's word says, goes, no questions asked! One issue seems to hinder some (myself included) from accepting what the Bible seems to clearly say-the "practicality" of believing certain doctrines that are hard to accept.

For example, let's say that the Bible clearly teaches something hard to accept- that God is sovereign and in control over "all things," including the salvation/conversion of humans. And let's say that I (or another in your life) bring up clear passages of Scripture to show this to be true (Romans 9, for example). If someone is not inclined to accept this teaching, I have come across (and myself have given) a few responses listed below:
- "Believing this is not a matter of salvation, so it doesn't matter what I believe about God's sovereignty, the end times, etc."
- "This doctrine does not affect how I live my daily life, how I parent, how I act at work, etc."
- "Well I don't think God would do that in that way. That doesn't seem fair."

These any many other unexpressed reasons have prevented me from accepting what God is saying in His word. And maybe, the reasons are relatively true at times- adhering to "Calvinism" or "Cessationism" or "Premillenialism" or "any-other-ism" is not a matter of salvation at all. And, forgive me if I'm wrong, but I have not killed any sin lately with the sword of "literal 6-day creationism" in my hands! So these reasons may seem true and valid on the surface. But...

What I believe is at stake in believing correct theology is the health of the spiritual muscle known as your "heart." Let me illustrate. In this article here, the cause for many bodily injuries related to exercise is determined to be "degenerative conditions." What this means is that your body accumulates tension in bones, joints, tendons, etc. over time, and eventually, the smallest action (like sneezing) causes an injury. A second cause of exercise-related injury is doing an exercise wrong. You may "curl" alot of weight, but you are also killing your back over time by performing the curls with the improper fashion! These improper actions overtime harm your muscles.

Likewise, our heart is our most important muscle. What is at stake in believing correct & biblical theology is the health of our heart. The primary function of our heart is to submit to God and His word. This means that when we "work out" our muscle correctly in regards to believing biblical doctrine, we are strengthening the very muscle that must submit to God when temptation arises. But when we reject a hard teaching from God's word because "it is not a matter of salvation," we are weakening the heart- we are performing "curls" in the wrong way and harming our muscle! We desire to strengthen our hearts to submit to God's word. If we brush off God's Word in the area of biblical theology, we are more likely to brush off God's Word when temptation comes our way! Is there something biblical that we either ignore or reject? Is there a topic that we are inclined to steer clear of, because it's "too hard," "too controversial," or "too deep"? Or do we strive to align both our actions and our beliefs under the authority of God and His Word?

So, my encouragement to you and to myself is to "guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). We want to be believers, as the Psalmist says, who "incline our hearts to perform your statutes forever, to the end" (Psalm 119:112). May we not 'exercise' our hearts in a harmful area just because we can't see or feel the effects now. We may be injuring the most important muscle God has given us.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Counting the seconds vs. Counting the cost...

A few weeks ago, as I was driving home from the beach, I thought, "I wonder if Tiger is winning the PGA Championship." Then I immediately thought of several ways that I could obtain this information within seconds, even though the tournament was being played 1,903 miles away. I could flip on the radio, and 710 ESPN will have updates every 20 mins or so. I could hop on the internet on my phone (while hiding it from cops) and quickly get this information within seconds.

Often times, when it comes to obtaining information, we are impatient when cell service is bad, the internet is down, or the TV has bad reception (yes, I still have a "rabbit ears" antenna!). We 'count the seconds' until we can obtain this information. In fact many successful industries make it their sole purpose to make the world smaller, to make you and me more "connected" to anyone and anything from anywhere.

I really do love this. I love that I can follow the Angels from Chino, even if they're playing in Chicago. I love that I can communicate instantaneously with great friends in Israel, England, Australia, New York, Texas, Washington, and basically any other location. However, I have seen in myself and in those believers around me a tendency that our "information age" has created. Everything is so simple, so efficient, so "google", so instantaneous- except spiritual growth. I can get you any information you may need in seconds (though if you ask me to do it for you I will send you a snide link to But you or I cannot be like Jesus in seconds. We cannot learn the intracacies of God's Word or God's character in seconds. We cannot successfully evangelize to our friends in seconds. We cannot kill our sin in seconds. We cannot counsel each other through trials in seconds. Spiritual growth, discipleship, pursuing Christlikeness is something that bears fruit in years. It is a grand task for which we must count the cost.

Much of my spiritual struggle in my pursuit of Christ in post-college days has come because it is not easy, it is not "efficient" on the surface, and it doesn't always grant instant gratification. I also see many peers and fellow church members who seem to think that sanctification should be structured more like a Google Search or a Starbucks Drive-Thru.

But I humbly remind myself and you that we must count the cost. We are giving our lives to Jesus, and he is taking us on a journey of knowing him and becoming like him. You should pursue him this second, but results may not appear for you this second. His plans and his ways are much grander and much bigger than we can imagine. True commitment causes a pursuit of Christ, a study of His word, a commitment to church & discipleship to last for decades, not seconds. May we not allow our "counting the seconds" culture destroy our "counting the cost" discipleship.

"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Google Homepage & Idols of the Heart

In the Bible, God's people are often rebuked & even mocked for practicing idolatry. "They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images, 'You are our gods'" (Isaiah 42:17; see also Psalm 115:4-9). What is ridiculous is that man would bow down to a material object which he created and give it worth, glory, and exaltation as God!

It may sound foreign in both time and culture, but the rebuke of idolatry is not simply aimed toward the physical bowing of the knee to a scuplted idol. Ezekiel 14:1-8 indicates that the problem of idolatry is in the heart of man. In this passage, Israel's problem was not simply a physical action; rather, the 'idol' controlled the desires, emotions, and volitions of their heart (Ez. 14:3- "they have taken idols into their hearts..."). Likewise, you and I in 21st century America (or wherever you may be reading this from), take 'idols into our hearts.' Oh, these idols are never false gods of other organized religions- we are far too sneaky for that sort of thing! Rather, our idols- our functional gods- are those priorities which govern the use of our recourses- time, energy, money.

Ken Sande ( defines an idol this way- "An idol, as we have seen, is any desire that has grown into a consuming demand that rules our heart; it is something we think we must have to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. To put it another way, it is something we love, fear, or trust." If we love, fear, trust, demand, need something/someone to the point that it governs your time OR you need it to be happy, you and I have created an idol. Do you need to be respected? Do you need to be praised? Do you need to be in shape, to have comfort, to be served, to play video games, to follow sports, to ____________ (fill in the blank)? Congratulations, you and I are in the same boat of idol worshippers!

One professor once told me, "It is easy for me to see what you worship. All I need to do is follow you around for a week, and look at your bank statements!" The way we spend our time & money is telling to what our hearts truly value.

Now, as I've thought about this recently, I have begun to analyze my own life (2 Cor. 13:5). When I open a new page my internet browser (Google Chrome- very good), Google Homepage gives me links to all my most visited pages. Seeing as I spend alot of time at a computer and on the internet, this should be a great indicator of what I value, right? Below is the Top 9, with categories in parentheses-
- Free Fantasy Baseball on ESPN (SPORTS- 2nd place in my league though!)
- Welcome to Facebook (Social)
- (Financial)
- Gmail (Social/Spiritual)
- ESPN Homepage (Spiritu...I mean SPORTS)
- ESV Bible Online (Spiritual)
- Embrace the Tension (my blog, spiritual)
- Arrowhead Credit Union (Financial)
- MLB Baseball Scoreboard (SPORTS)

One can see the breakdown- 3 SPORTS; 2 Financial; 2 Social; 2 Spiritual. Uh Oh. Based on the above, with the resource of the internet, I seem to give great value (aka 'worship') to sports, social life, and my money. Sure, Jesus is thrown in there, but apparently he is not running the show. (I can also predict that the baseball links will probably change to football in a few weeks, but that doesn't solve the problem now does it?) It seems, sadly, that Jesus is important to me, but is he my God? Meaning- does he dictate what I do and how I spend my time, or do other interests, priorities, hobbies, and values?

My point is this- don't kid yourself. God is all, and he must be worshipped above all else. We've all got some repenting to do, and google homepage provides some great analysis to help you do it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jesus embraced the tension! (clarified)

We (the Christian church- particularly the conservative evangelical, semi-educated) go around and around debating the whole Calvinism/Arminianism topic. Often times, however, our comments and thoughts do not have feet, cannot be applied or lived out, and therefore offer minimal impact to our lives and do little for the progression of the gospel. Interesting juxtaposition I found in Matthew 11. Jesus affirms the sovereignty of God in saving people and awakening their hearts to the gospel, yet turns around and offers, pleads, and sincerely begs for all men to come to Him, leave their burdens, and be saved! Most of us would run from, or try and philosophize (that's not a word) this theological 'tension'- Jesus embraced it. Read on:

"At that time Jesus declared, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'”

Jesus here affirms two truths that usually create "theological tension" in our minds.
- 1) God reveals or hides his gospel sovereignly to those he chooses.
- 2) Jesus gives a legitimate invitation to "come to me" to anyone who is willing.

These two truths may be in tension in our finite minds, but it must not prevent us from embracing these great facts from God's word and applying them to our lives!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wisdom from the dead Buddha

This morning, I read an inglorious little quote from Buddha on the side of my 'Good Earth' tea bag. The Buddhster says, in some of his last words (before he died and was buried and stayed dead like the rest of mankind- that was for free!) according to tradition, "Doubt everything. Find your own light." Um, forgive me, Mr. Buddha, for perhaps taking your words too literally, but if I am supposed to 'doubt everything,' as you claim, should I not then doubt my ability to 'find my own light'? I'm just saying....

The sad reality that truly brings me great sadness is that many who bite the glittering lure of this self-glorifying advice soon see the "Light of the world." And Buddha would surely acknowledge now, that Jesus' glory and worth is what we should not doubt.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thoughts on Lust Part 2

I wrote the below in response to a question I got from a good friend about the last post. How do we do it? By grace, yes. And I pray there is grace enclosed in the below...Once again, these thoughts have undoubtedly been gathered from God's word, and counsel I've received from godly guys. If I used something one of you said to me once, don't get mad that I plagiarized, praise God that your counsel stuck with me!

Matt. 5:27- "I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart..."
Remember that what Jesus is talking about is looking at a girl with the purpose of lusting. That means looking at her and thinking about acting on the attraction. The attraction or presence of initial temptation is not wrong, since that's the way God wired us, but thinking on how you would fulfill that desire is sinful. Now practically speaking...
- REPLACE- Eph 4 tells us to "put off the old man...put on the new man"...What we need to realize is that you can never simply stop doing/thinking something sinful. You need to "replace" the sinful action with a "Godward" action. For example, turn the temptation into an opportunity to pray (it's funny how talking to God will chase away many a temptation!) Say, "Jesus, thank you for making women attractive. Please help show me how to serve the girls around me in a brotherly way so I can honor you and them, like you told me to in 1 Tim. 5:2. I thank you for my future wife and pray that I can honor her the best way possible. Thank you for the gift of sexuality and please help me to only act on it in accord with your word." You have just turned temptation into thanksgiving.
- RELOCATE- Make sure you are never putting yourself in harm's way. I never struggled with porn, but I knew which TV shows would have hot/semi-dressed girls on them. I knew that my Surfer magazine would have a few such ads. When I defeated my sin was often times when I didn't go near these areas of known temptation. We have enough temptation that simply comes up, we need relocate to avoid the ones we know clearly about! This principle applies here- "Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?" (Prov 6:27-28). If you go into areas of known temptation, odds are, you will be scorched.
- REVERE- I literally think to myself, "What if Jesus comes back right now? Would I want my Lord and Savior to return to me thinking about that? Aren't there better things to be doing when the teacher walks back into the class than imitating her or stealing her answer keys?" True reverence for Jesus chases sin away. Often times, we don't just need a behavior change; we need a heart change that leads to a behavior change. A heart that bleeds Bible, that thinks lofty thoughts of Jesus, is a safeguard against giving in to quick temptation.
- REFLECT- Defeating lust is like marinating meat. You must let the ribs sit in the marinade for awhile so that the tasty goodness sinks in. In the same way, when you are tempted, act slowly. For me, God's promises may not "work" the first time I tell them to myself. I need to let my heart sit in the marinade of His word for awhile before I can "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8). Don't act quickly. The best thing to do when temptation arises is slow your emotions and thoughts down and just reflect.
- REHEARSE- Your heart is a muscle and it must be worked out. When you first start running, lifting weights, or exercising, your muscles hurt like crazy, and you can't stand it. You almost want to quit (I usually do and go sit on the couch!) In the same way, spiritually, realize that your heart is a muscle, and defeating lust is not easy at all! It will require so much discipline, and will hurt like crazy alot of the time. But you must keep going. Many guys have problems because its too hard, and they think it should be easier. But it's not easy. Not at all. Real men don't give in to lust because it's too hard. That's wimpy. Real men conquer lust (with Jesus' power).
- REALIZE- That there is victory in Jesus. You can defeat your sin in His strength (the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is in you!) Don't buy into the lie that it cannot be done.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thoughts for young men on lust...

"Your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
In my time walking with fellow young Christian men as an RA and in the local church, the struggle with lust seems to be a constant issue in someone's life. Being still a young man myself, I have listed several principles, in no particular order, that have helped me fight lust, and have helped others as well.
1. Sometimes you can't make it on your own. I have no idea what Bono was talking about in this U2 song by the same title, but I know it's true when it comes to lust. Actually, we can't ever make it on our own. What dudes need is a constant web of support from other godly guys.
2. Don't fake it. Hey the Bible (and even Jesus) knows that you're a sinner. And guess what- most people around you know it too (in fact, we are all pretty hideous in our own right). So when you fake it and pretend that things are going well, you just end up screwing yourself in the end. The message of the Bible when it comes to community is- I'm a sinner, you're a sinner, no surprises there. Now what are we, together, going to do to fight our sin? Boom shaka.
3. Take God at His word. There are some unbelievably scary things that the Bible says about lust. Let God's words soak in to your heart like hydrogen peroxide to an open wound, and sting you and kill all unholy thinking in you. Below is a little list of verses that I let speak to me over the years:
- Looking at a woman with lust is the same as having sex with her (Matthew 5:27-30) and bringing Jesus in the room to watch you do it (1 Cor. 6:15-17).
- Jesus says that a consistent lifestyle of unchecked lust means that you're not a child of God and you will be sent to hell. Do you feel the flames of hell when you're tempted? You should (Matt. 5:30)
- Lusting is acting as if you don't even know Jesus (1 Thess. 4:3-8). It is also giving the finger to the woman's future (or current) husband AND your future/current wife.
- Lusting is an inhumane & animal-like action that treats a woman like an object, not a person. I drool over ribeye, not over women (except my hot wife)...(Jer. 5:8).
- God looks at lust as if you were looking/acting at your sister (esp. if she's a fellow believer). My 2 sisters are both dating dudes right now (AC/DC) and the standard of living to all women who are not your wife should be "Would I be cool if I walked in on someone doing this to my sister? What would make me want to shake that guy's hand instead of ring his neck?" (1 Tim. 5:2).
4. Correspond your actions with REALITY. Porn/lust is easy because the women you look at aren't real. They never nag, never have a bad hair day, and never wake up on the wrong side of the bed. They're not real.
5. Live radically. Jesus says you should pull your eye out if it causes you to sin. His point is that you should live so radically and care about holiness so much, that you will sacrifice anything to please God. Not have internet in the house? On my phone? OMG that's so radical.
6. Don't kid yourself. Sexual desire is not wrong. Acting upon or fulfilling that desire in anyway on anyone or anything that is not your wife is hellishly (made that up?) wrong. Don't rationalize your sin by saying it's just one look, or you didn't actually do anything, or that every guy does it, etc, etc, etc. Don't make excuses. Be honest, ask God for help, ask your bros in Christ for help, and kill your sin.
7. Um, no, you haven't arrived. The moment you convince yourself that you have finally defeated your sin is the moment your sin begins to defeat you. If an army doesn't think there is a war, they are very susceptible to an attack. Keep your head on a swivel, because temptation is coming.
8. Do what Jesus did. In Matt. 4 & Luke 4, Jesus rid himself of temptation by appealing to God's word. Have a game plan for when temptation arises. What promises of God will you cling to? What lies is Satan telling you? How can God's word trump the lies of Satan? I always cling to Psalm 83:11- "No good thing does God withhold from him who walks uprightly." The lie of lust is often "You are missing out if you don't look/think/act. You are missing out on pleasure...." God says "No good thing are you missing out on if you follow my Word." If I believe that, it's a done deal, and I'm running out of the house of temptation naked like Joseph.
9. There is a way out. Take it. NOW! God says that there is always a way out in temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). However that "way out" may be at step 2 in the process of temptation. Sometimes, I asked God, "Why wasn't there a way out like you promised?" He said, "There was. It was just at a point far earlier than you expected, and you turned me down." Some of you do not need to go online alone at midnight. Your "way out" is before you turn the computer on. Some of you do not need to watch a movie alone in your room with homegirl. Your "way out" is before you closed that door. That being said, there is victory in Jesus. That's why he came and died for you- to make you holy (1 John 3:5!)
10. Worship God. Be Happy. Every practical struggle with lust comes down to an "idol" that you are desiring. It may be pleasure. It may be control. It may be comfort. It may be safety. The problem is that when you bow down to that god and let lust be the tool that your idol uses, you never actually get what you wanted. Maybe you struggled with porn because it is a relationship without rejection- power button, click, click, click, and you feel accepted! However, God has met all your needs in Christ. Need pleasure? Be satisfied in relationship with God and hang out with him (Phil. 3:8, Psalm 73:25-28, Psalm 27:4, Phil. 4:4). Need comfort? God is called the "God of all comfort" (2 Cor. 1:3). Need safety and security? God is your rock and refuge (Psalm 18:1-2). Need acceptance? How amazing that God has given you Jesus and accepts you as his child, not because of you, but because of Jesus! (1 John 3:1). Need control? No you don't! You need to relinquish control to the One who has promised to meet all your needs in Jesus (Phil 4:19). He also has said that nothing happens to you unless it is for your good and his glory (Rom. 8:28). So put God on his throne.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On Thanksgiving!

Last night, when my head hit the pillow after a tiring weekend in the heat, I literally said out loud, "Thank you Jesus for my bed." This set off a chain of thoughts about thanksgiving and reminded me of something I had written before, pasted below for your edification, enjoyment, and evaluation!

Some thoughts on gratitude to our God...

It seems interesting to me that often times when we are tempted to complain, be discontent, to not be joyful, we persuade ourselves into contentment and thanksgiving with comments like, "I have nothing to complain about," or "I have so much to be thankful for," or even, "I'm not impoverished in a third world country, what am I so down about?" Furthermore, it is interesting to me in my own prayer life and as i hear others pray that we pray with such gratitude, "Lord, we have so much to be thankful for: healthy bodies, a solid family, great education, great friends, good weather, nice clothes, and you provide food for us as well. Thank you Lord." Now these comments and prayers are completely innocent on the surface, but what can they possibly imply about our joy? Let me ask a question to myself here- Ryan, do you think that if you didn't have a healthy body or great family and friends, that you would indeed then have NOTHING to be thankful for? Or do you think that if you were impoverished in a third world country, you would indeed have something legitimate to complain about?

Too often in my own thoughts and prayers, I make God's physical blessings the ground of my joy and gratitude, and not God himself. I actually think that if I was poor or unhealthy, then indeed i could complain and be ungrateful. You see, my health and clothes and friends and education must not be the grounds of my joy or my thanksgiving. What should be then? God and God himself. Take this whole world, health, prosperity, friends, family, talents, freedoms, education, and leave me with Jesus and I will be more satisfied with only Him. I would, at that poor and lowly physical condition, still have nothing to complain about and everything to rejoice over and give thanks for. As the Psalmist writes, "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none that I desire on earth besides You. My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:25-26).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Sermons of our Culture

I nearly cried watching Michael Jackson's funeral the other day. And not because I will miss him, nor because of his daughter's tearful farewell, and definitely not because of my sore back thanks to my moonwalk attempts. I was heavy-hearted, not by the death of the king of pop, but by the dishonor given King Jesus.

Our culture is constantly preaching messages, through commercials, songs, movies, articles, and through the funeral the other day. The name of Jesus was referenced, heaven was spoken of, and yet the service closed with the message that, "We are the world," truth is relative, and let's accept all worldviews as equally valid (regardless of their correspondence with history, reality, etc.). Much else can be said, but my main concern is that the real, actual, living, historical Jesus is sharply misrepresented. The natural man affirms loudly and loves the big themes, for they make him 'feel' peace- "God is love," "We are all God's children," "Jesus gives hope and peace..." However, we detach these 'big themes' from the 'smaller' details, questions, and answers that make these big themes true! Jesus is peace! But how do we get that peace in light of our sin? God is love! But what does that love consist of, and what changes does it cause in our lives? The peace of Jesus & the love of God mean nothing if they don't answer questions and solve problems related to the plight of my soul and the glory of God. We want to affirm big, feel-good themes, but we want to detach them from reality, detach them from history, and therefore detach them from any real significance beyond a sound-bite.

I have thought of several biblical & Christian observations & responses to this example of a widespread issue that the church must face and engage in:
- Apologetics is a must-study for every Christian. You do apologetics on your couch.
- We are now a post-Christian society.
- We must have our minds ready for battle every day. Holy living starts with holy thinking.
- I'd rather ride a bumpy road to heaven with Jesus, than take a smooth one to hell without him.
- How does our Christian theology actually affect our morals? Does it?
- Is your day in, day out, faith based in history?
- What is your answer for the hope that is in you?
- Do all religions really lead to God?
- In our culture's worldview, who gets punished or goes to hell? Does anyone?'
- Can you explain what the "love of God" actually & practically means?
- What are your emotions when God & his word are disregarded? Are you hurt, heavy, & sad?
- Do you have love for the non-Christian? If so, how do you show it?

What other reactions do you have?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sad Day

Something sad happened to me (in me?) today. I was perusing a church's website and was reading their vision, doctrine and mission statement. There, they mentioned something along the lines of "we want to be a church who...loves homosexuals..." The first thought that I had was, "Wow, I wonder if this church is solid..."

Undoubtedly- Jesus is the God who inhabited earth, attended parties, and was reamed by the religious elite for hanging out with & loving the prostitute and the tax collector. If it were God's plan for Jesus to physically walk the earth today, he would be reamed by the religious elite for being around & loving the homosexual.

Now, I am not faulting my thinking, nor am I faulting the church's wording on their website. But it is sad that we have gotten to a point in our church culture and our culture as a whole, where something biblical and Christ-like ("loving homosexuals") has been misinterpreted by the world and by many 'christians.' It is to the point where I read something that Jesus would have done ("love homosexuals"), and I wonder if they really mean something Jesus would not have done ("approve of the homosexual lifestyle"). The same phrase- "love homosexuals"- can apply (and has been applied) to an act that is God-honoring or to an act that is God-disgracing.

This is the world we live in. I didn't create this challenge or ask for it. But we must accept it- walk like Jesus and love the outcast. And be prepared to embrace the tension from the liberal (for condemning the sin) and from the self-righteous & arrogant legalist (for really, truly loving the sinner).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tension- Worry vs. Wise Planning

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

Jesus here literally tells us not to worry about the most basic needs of life. Specifically, don't worry about your basic needs in the future, because your heavenly Father will provide them. Yet I know that I am still supposed to be a wise & good steward of the money I receive, as well as be a provider of my family, lest I be viewed as an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8). I love this passage, yet it is so hard to think through properly and to live out biblically. As a young married couple, just starting out paying my own stinking bills, saving, tithing, etc, these things are on my mind more than ever. Should I get life insurance? What is the best way to save my money for a house? Do I need to own a house? Should I start saving for retirement? But more important than my job, my paycheck, my distribution of my (ahem, God's) money, is my trust in my God. Yet if I am to not worry about my most basic needs 1, 2, 5, 10 years from now (according to Matt. 6 above), yet I am supposed to be a good steward of money and a provider for my family (1 Tim. 5:8), where should my wise planning end and my trust begin?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jesus loves homosexuals too much to let them be

I wrote the below in response to (sadly) another article on a Christian pastor who affirms homosexual marriage.

It is sad to me that in the Christian community the media portrays 2 prominent positions on the issue of homosexual marriage: 1- We are hateful, primitive bigots who are too narrow minded to allow homosexuals "equal rights" to marry. 2- The mature, accepting, loving "Christians" who openly affirm the homosexual lifestyle and homosexual marriage (as in this article here). Can the media not be fair and see that, maybe, just maybe, many conservative Christians do indeed love, accept and affirm homosexuals, while disapproving of their lifestyle? Jesus himself loved and hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, accepted the person, and commanded repentance from the lifestyle. And I do not disapprove of the homosexual lifestyle out of hatred and prejudice; rather, biblically, we disapprove of the lifestyle because we 1) love God and His word; 2) love the homosexual individual and do not want him/her to injure himself/herself by perverting the gift of sexuality that God has given; and 3) because we love mankind and society as a whole, and (rightly) view homosexuality as a perversion of true humanity that, if perpetuated, cannot lead to societal maturity and positive "progression." This has been preached time and time again through the media- that a person IS a homosexual the same way that some people are black, others are tall, and still others have brown eyes or large feet. Comparisons are constantly made to the civil rights movements of decades past, and it is assumed that homosexuality is no longer a matter of moral choice, but rather a matter of amoral preference, or a matter of identity. While there may be factors from one's upbringing or psyche that make homosexuality appealing, this inclination DOES NOT MAKE IT RIGHT! Does a bitter person who is inclined to murder or violent acts of anger get the green light due to sinful inclination? Does the person who is inclined to lie due to the example of his parents get a free pass? If we allow our sinful inclinations to become our identity, we are in dire straits, my friends. To be sure, God allows people to do as they choose; but as a Bible-believing Christian, my conscience is bound and my love for you is strong. In the same way that I would never let my child place his hand against a running chainsaw, or dip the electronic in a sink full of water, my love for you will not allow me to smile at a lifestyle that will grieve our God, harm your own soul, and harm mankind and society at large. I can do no other, because I love you!

*There are many other issues to discuss here- the role of gov't in defining marriage (& other societal values), the heterosexually sinful, the "separation of church & state", etc. Please comment or raise valid questions!